Reading fiction is not that dissimilar from watching a movie in your brain. The ways in which audio-visual consumption of fiction and reading fiction diverge is in their demand on engagement – when reading I must learn new words, I struggle to find meaning, I use my imagination, I slowly strengthen understanding – I meet books more than half-way in my mind’s eye.
Movies and television, in contrast, demand less engagement from the viewer – much of the vision and interpretation is handed (or forced) on the audience. As popular movies and TV demand less, they also seem more apt to acquiesce to popular whim – mirroring the culture that consumes them rather than challenging it. The level of engagement demanded by audio-visual entertainment is also subject to a shifting baseline – that is, it’s gotten less challenging over time.
This is not a knock on all television and movies as a form of art. Often television, movies, and documentaries are the perfect medium to convey a particular message. Also, there are many movies and television programs which are, in fact, very challenging to their audience in addition to being very enjoyable.
Also, it is noteworthy that I tend to read mass-market crap – the book-equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup. I’ve come to terms with this fact. I read some crap, I read some good things, occasionally I’ll read a few great (and nominally “great”) things. I end up with a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from reading crap rather than watching crap – YMMV.
This is a long way of saying – I think that reading is a Good Thing™ and I want to do more of it. To enforce more of a habit, I set reading goals for myself at the start of each year. In 2015 I wanted to read a book a month. In 2016 I wanted to read 2 books a month. In both 2015 and 2016 my grasp has exceeded my reach – which is not how goals are supposed to work.
- Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
- Black Hole by Charles Burns
- Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- The Circle by Dave Eggers
- Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
- The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu
- A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Stoner by John Williams
- Prost! The Story of German Beer by Horst D. Dornbusch
- Bock by Darryl Richman
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- Kitchen Confidential: adventures in the culinary underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
- H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
- Watchers by Dean Koontz
- The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
- Everything but Espresso by Scott Rao
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
- Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
- CODE: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Charles Petzold
- The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
I also reviewed a couple of these books over the course of 2016, hopefully I can continue down that path in the year to come.
I’m going to try to read roughly a book a week in 2017 – 50 books for the year. Hopefully 50 books is an ambitious enough goal. Additionally, I’d like to try to do 6 book reviews on this blog as a means of:
- Tracking what I’ve read
- Checking my understanding
- Engaging and owning what I’ve read
I’d also like to lay claim to my crazy ambitious plan to read 4 whole, real, grown-up (i.e., not beer- or computer-related) non-fiction books this year.
As I’m proclaiming these goals publicly for the first time, I’m sure I’ll come up woefully and shamefully short – yay blogging!